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Was Nazi Germany built on consent or coercion of the population?
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The successful rule of Nazis within Germany was due in part to initial consent, coercion only taking place later

Consent within the early days of the Nazis mixed with government-mandated programs that promoted intense instances of societal pressure created the perfect environment for Nazi rule.
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The Argument

Consent and coercion walk hand in hand. That is to say, one does not often give consent without having been coerced. Thus, although doctors and nurses participating in the T4 euthanasia programs consented to their involvement, they were cash incentivized into reporting "feebleminded" children: a form of coercion.[1] Yet, evidence of this dark mixture does not stop here. Instead, consent and coercion are repeatedly witnessed in a variety of other aspects of Nazi German society. For example, it is without a doubt clear that the National Socialists were popular— people willingly supported their rise to power; therefore, systematic intimidation and terror were unneeded. Yet, this does not mean that informal forms of coercion were not exercised. In other words, this support created an intense form of peer pressure. As a result, if an individual would choose to not participate in this Naziist society, they would face social ostracization on the local level.[2]

Counter arguments

Claiming that any form of coercion is involved, is dispelling any accountability. The holocaust could not have happened without the consent of the German population. Robert Gellately, a historian at Oxford University, conducted a widely respected survey of the German media before and during the war and concluded that there was substantial participation and consent from large numbers of ordinary Germans in various aspects of the Holocaust, that German civilians frequently saw columns of slave laborers, and that the basics of the concentration camps, if not the extermination camps, were widely known.[3] However, Gellately is not the only historian who has come to this conclusion. Instead, German scholar Peter Longerich concluded that: "General information concerning the mass murder of Jews was widespread in the German population." Longerich estimates that before the war ended, 32 to 40 percent of the population had knowledge about mass killings. British historian Nicholas Stargardt likewise presented vast evidence of widespread knowledge, agreement, and collusion concerning the destruction of European Jewry, as well as other groups. If 40 percent of the German population rose up against such injustice, the third Reich would have fallen much sooner. Instead, they silently consented.[3]



[P1] Consent and coercion often need one another. [P2] Although the Nazi German state did not implement formal coercion tactics, informal tactics were created as a result of intense pressure.

Rejecting the premises

[P1] Acknowledging consent, in turn, acknowledges accountability. [P2] Numerous historians support this idea.


This page was last edited on Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 08:50 UTC